Spanish Disco, by Erica Orloff

>> Friday, May 25, 2007

TITLE: Spanish Disco
AUTHOR: Erica Orloff

PAGES: 256
PUBLISHER: Red Dress Ink

SETTING: Contemporary Florida

REASON FOR READING: Intrigued by the AAR review.

A tale about love, publishing and doing the hustle.

"Real life was messy. Sloppy bathrooms I could handle. Love I could not."

For thirty-three-year-old Cassie Hayes, life is about to get messier. She can't cook, unless you count coffee as a meal (she does). She can't commit (just ask her ex-husband). She drinks too much (tequila for breakfast). Of course, she has guided her share of authors to the bestseller list for the literary publishing house where she works (when she makes it to the office). And now she must coax a sequel out of a Pulitzer Prize-winning author-turned-recluse. Moving in with the recluse is one thing, but teaching him the hustle so he can win the heart of his Spanish housekeeper is way beyond the call of duty.

Cassie slowly unravels, with no coffeehouses, no bagels and nothing but sand for nightlife. On top of that, she's having phone sex with her favorite author, the mysterious, London-based Michael Pearton, who has suddenly decided to ruin their perfect affair by insisting that after five years they meet in person. Add a tabloid reporter who is after the literary story of a lifetime, and Cassie's dance card is full.
THE PLOT: After decades of silence, the author of the book that gave a voice to the Vietnam war generation is ready to publish his follow-up to it, and he's chosen a small Florida press to work with. His condition? Editor Cassie Hayes must work on the book, and she must do so at his isolated island home.

The future of her publishing house depends on this, and so tequila-guzzling coffee-addicted city girl Cassie packs her Mr. Coffee and heads to Sanibel Island. Who knows, it might be good to have some distance from English author Michael Pearton, who seems bent on turning their very satisfying long-time phone affair into a real one.

But what she finds at Sanibel Island is not what she expects, and her job might be harder than she could ever have imagined... not to mention change her life completely.

MY THOUGHTS: I'm rereading what I just wrote above, and doesn't it seem as if she will fall in love with the mysterious author, or that he will turn out to be Michael, or something like that? I probably should rewrite it, but I'm feeling lazy, so I'll just say that's just not at all what this book is about. I thought so for the first few pages, but nope, the old author is just a figure who ends up giving Cassie life lessons, not romance. The guy is in love with his young Mexican housekeeper, and Cassie ends up kinda matchmaking.

So, did I like it? It was a fast, not-at-all-boring read, and I quite liked some parts, but the book as a whole just didn't do it for me.

I think the problem might have been what felt to me as a strong sentimentalistic streak throughout it, juxtaposed with a heroine who's supposed to be one tough cookie.

Cassie herself was a pretty good character, very much the opposite of all those nicey-nicey, bland heroines who must, above all, be "likeable" and are not allowed even one real flaw. I liked that she saw herself clearly and was not insecure. In fact, she accepted herself with all her flaws, and I loved that she didn't have to be "redeemed" or anything like that. Michael loved her, bitchiness, unhealthy habits and all.

But around this interesting heroine we get this plot brimming with important Life Lessons To Be Learned, and it's not done in a particularly witty or edgy way. And even Cassie sometimes behaves unrecognizably, as when she has an email exchange in which she and Michael end up talking about their relationship using a metaphor of dancing, and I kept thinking "this is Cassie writing?"

Another negative for me was the subplot about the tabloid reporter, which simply went nowhere. It was intriguing enough, but I've no idea what it was doing in this book, and those pages of this pretty short book would have been much better used in developing the romance. I liked the ending and its resolution, but I would have liked more meat there.



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